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The 2 Mistakes You May Be Making When Leading a Meeting

The 2 Mistakes You May Be Making When Leading a Meeting

When you lead a meeting, your leadership abilities are front and center for everyone to see. While how you lead a meeting may not be a fair assessment of your true leadership capabilities, like it or not, those around you will assess you as a leader based on how well the meeting is run.

Avoiding these two common mistakes will increase the likelihood that your meeting will run smoothly, leaving a positive perception of your leadership in the minds of attendees. With some upfront work and know-how, you can steer clear of these common pitfalls that derail meetings and leave attendees frustrated.


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#1: Not Setting and Enforcing Meeting Ground Rules

Many common grievances attendees have regarding meetings at work could be avoided by setting ground rules. Ground rules are a set of norms and behaviors that everyone agrees to follow for the meeting to not only meet its objective but for it to be a constructive and inclusive environment rather than a destructive one where feelings get hurt, turf wars start, and egos get in the way of meaningful progress. 

Poor behavior in meetings is, unfortunately, commonplace. According to a study conducted by The University of Amsterdam, those polled listed these as the top destructive behaviors in meetings, all of which can be avoided by setting ground rules.

  1. Attendees who take phone calls or text during the meeting (55%)
  2. Attendees who interrupt others (50%)
  3. Attendees who show up late or leave early (49%)
  4. Attendees who don’t listen or are not respectful to others (49%)
  5. Attendees who dominate the conversation (46%)

Top 5 Destructive Behaviors in Meetings (1)

Ideally, you would set meeting ground rules in one of your first meetings as a team, though if you haven’t yet, there’s no better time than the present to do so. Also, if you set ground rules for your meetings alone in a silo and then tell your attendees to follow them, it will likely have the opposite effect of what you intend. So, be sure to brainstorm and create a set of ground rules as a group and then get agreement from everyone that they are willing to stick to them going forward.

Meeting Guidelines and Rules PDF - Niagara InstituteTo help you get started, here is a list of meeting guidelines and rules you can use with your own team.

  • Stay mentally present and fight the urge to multitask
  • Attack problems, not people
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question or idea
  • It’s okay to say, “I don’t know”
  • Silence electronics
  • Start and end on time
  • Think about how it can be done, not about how or why it can’t
  • Save criticism or constructive feedback for individuals for another time
  • Listen to understand, not to reply
  • If you’re going to oppose an idea, be prepared to propose an alternative


#2:  Not Stopping Meeting Tangents and Off-Agenda Conversations

In a survey of 757 workers in the United States, the number one choice for the most significant meeting challenge was tangents and off-agenda conversations. Tangents can be highly frustrating to attendees. Meeting attendees have agenda items they want to address or hear about, only to have them missed due to a lack of time, as off-topic conversations monopolized the meeting.

5 Tips to Stop Meeting TengentsLeading a meeting requires addressing off-topic conversations to get the agenda back on track and ensure attendees find value in your meeting. Here are four ways to stop tangents when they arise.

  1. Deploy the Parking Lot: When someone brings up a new discussion topic that isn’t part of the agenda, take note of it and announce that you will add it to the next agenda.
  2. Circle Back to the Agenda: Interrupt a tangent by asking that the agenda and subsequent time allotment be followed to ensure all topics are covered in the meeting.
  3. Keep the Goal Top of Mind: A quick reminder of the purpose and goal of the meeting is a surefire way to get the discussion back on track when a tangent takes over.
  4. Take It Offline: Some tangents and conversations only involve a few individuals. If the off-topic discussion is for a small group, interpret the tangent and ask it to be discussed outside the meeting.


Learn to Lead Better Meetings

Becoming proficient at leading a meeting is like learning any skill; it takes knowledge and practice to become great at it. Luckily, with a partner like Niagara Institute, you can learn the skills you need to lead productive meetings. With programs covering communication and leadership skills, as well as, opportunities to work with a leadership coach, you can get the skills you need to lead better meetings.

Meeting Agenda Template

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